Gig review: McGoldrick, McCusker And Doyle, Edinburgh

From left, John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick and John Doyle

From left, John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick and John Doyle

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FOR A trio approaching the end of a 30-gig UK tour, flautist and piper McGoldrick, fiddler McCusker and singer-guitarist Doyle, despite their onstage banter, still appeared to be talking to each other. They were certainly communicating musically – and looked as if they’re enjoying it.

McGoldrick, McCusker And Doyle - Queen's Hall Edinburgh

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As individuals, all three can boast impressive CVs encompassing duties with the likes of Capercaillie, Lunasa, Battlefield Band, Solas, Mark Knopfler and the Transatlantic Sessions. As a unit, they delivered a sparklingly tight programme with fiddle and flute dancing in nimble unison over Doyle’s thrumming guitar, eager for the chase but able to pull off split-second changes in tempo.

It was a slow air that opened the performance, however, McGoldrick’s uilleann pipes echoing plangently in the old Irish aisling tune, I’m Asleep; Don’t Wake Me, before launching into a slip jig, heralding the expected jig ‘n’ reel capers, with Doyle, a superb accompanist, making potent use of his eight-string guitar, deftly running alongside flute and fiddle, rather than merely hammering them along.

McCusker switched between fiddle, cittern and the background sigh of harmonium as needed – sometimes within the same number – while McGoldrick occasionally took up tenor guitar. Doyle changed to a mutedly chiming electric guitar for some of his songs, including the sanguinary murder ballad What Put the Blood and a dramatic, up-tempo account of The False Lady, a Scots song which had emigrated to Vermont.

He also gave a persuasive telling of his own fine composition Path of Stones, based on a poem by W B Yeats and nicely rounded off by a guitar and harmonium coda.

There was a rousing version of the sea shanty Billy O’Shea, although one can’t help thinking that, had sailors really worked at the pace Doyle laid on the song, they wouldn’t have need to discover steam. An excellent sound balance meant his singing came over with great clarity.

McCusker delved back to his youthful days in the Battlefield Band with the waltz Leaving Friday Harbour, which has worn well as a tune of elegant warmth, while his fiddle skittered energetically, alongside McGoldrick’s flute, through jigs such as the drolly titled Boys of the Puddle.

Further high-energy but consistently tight excursions included what they called The Long Set. It was an indication of their musicianship that it indeed proved lengthy, but never tiresome.

Seen on 12.03.15

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